According to a recent article published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, greater intake of processed and red meats is associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
The pancreas, a gland located in the abdomen, produces juices that help digest foods as well as the hormones glucagon and insulin, which help regulate blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is not curable in most cases and is not frequently operable. Therefore, its prevention or reduction in risk of its development is an important area of research.
Increased intake of meats (particularly fatty meat or processed meats) has been implicated as a possible risk in the development of certain cancers. However, risks of pancreatic cancer associated with these foods have not been firmly established. To investigate this potential link, researchers from Hawaii and California recently conducted a clinical study of a possible association between intake of meat and the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
This study included over 190,000 people who were followed for 7 years. A questionnaire established regular dietary proportions. Several other variables were included. Overall, greater meat intake was associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer:
- Individuals who ate the most processed meat had a 68% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate the least.
- Individuals who ate the most red meat and pork had a 50% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate the least.
- Total intake of dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, total fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol was not associated with risks in the development of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers concluded that individuals with an increased intake of processed meat and red meat had a significantly higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer when compared to individuals with a lower intake of these foods. The researchers speculate that meat preparation is involved in the development of pancreatic cancer since total fat intake and cholesterol were not associated with risks of this disease.
Reference: Nothlings U, Wilkens L, Murphy S, et al. Meat and Fat Intake as Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2005; 97:1458-1465.